There have been centuries of vigorous debate based on the origins of pizza.
In the blue corner, the Italians, with a fairly strong and well-informed claim to sole ownership over our dough-based friend; in the red, a popular Chinese old wives' tale states Marco Polo brought the concept back to Italy after having been blown away by a particularly flavoursome flattened bing during his travels in China.
If you do subscribe to the latter conspiracy, then it's time to celebrate: pizza's gone full circle and returned to its spiritual home this autumn, with the arrival of the one and so far the only Baozza – a Chinese steamed baozi stuffed with the cheese, tomato etc of a pizza.
Buried in the bowels of Sanlitun Soho – literally, right at the back in the deepest depths of the basement food court – is Baozza's culinary exploratory laboratory, where the magic happens. We decide to check it out, and see if this meeting of East and West is a happy marriage.
Baozza's menu works on a mix 'n' match basis, so combine the pizza pouch of your choice with soup and salad for your dream meal deal; two items for 20RMB, four for 35RMB, eight for 65RMB and a mighty 12 for 100RMB. We choose to waste no time on that healthy nonsense and go straight for the kill with a four-piece baozza degustation platter, served with marinara and spicy vinegar Sriracha dips.
As far as the pizza parcels themselves go, there's something for everyone. Here they are in all their close-up gory glory.
The Meat Lover
The BBQ Chicken
The Hawaiian Jalapeño
If you think there's slight discrepancy between the baozza's appearance on the menu and that in real actual tangible life, you'd be absolutely right. We arrived with open minds but were left underwhelmed by a lack of filling in all four offerings, particularly on the cheese front – a parcel stuffed to the brim is usually a given in the baozi arena, but our deflated delicacies struggled to graduate from pizza pocketdom.
Pre-meal, the BBQ Chicken was hotly anticipated, but ultimately failed; the Meat Lover, though, did fair slightly better. As the owner tells us, their opening is currently soft, and as our mouths tell us, the buns are even softer. Perhaps too soft.
To be fair to the Baozza team and their concept, it's still a product in the developmental stages, and a fun idea, if nothing else. Apparently the flash of inspiration came to them in the midst of a drunken stupor, and it's just the sort of snack you'd go mad for at such a time, or maybe the ultimate stoner snack. Right now, we'll file it under 'novelty in need of a bit of fine tuning and more stuffing', though.
Only time will tell if it proves to be as successful a fusion concept as, say, the cronut or the spork, but decide for yourself by visiting their new digs in the basement of Sanlitun Soho.
Baozza will also soon be available for delivery through eleme, Sherpa's and Baidu Waimai.